The Movie: 7/10
Undertow is a strange little Peruvian gem of a movie that features a love triangle of Miguel (Cristian Mercado), his pregnant wife Mariela (Tatiana Astego) and artist/photographer Santiago (Manolo Cardona). The three live in a small Peruvian fishing village that is very religious, and as a result, the town and church frown upon Santiago;s lifestyle, leaving him as an outsider due to his homosexuality. Unbeknownst to them, Miguel is in love with Santiago, and has been having an affair with him in the summers for years. The hidden affair is also unknown even to Mariela, who is oblivious to the forbidden love.
When the two worlds of Migeul start to intersect, friction occurs between Santiago and Miguel, and when Santiago is dragged out to see by an undertow, the results really get strange when his ghost appears in Miguel and Mariela’s house. Of course Migeul is the only one who can see Santiago, and it is upon his ghost’s return that Miguel is forced to deal with his emotions and his true self, as he can no longer live a double life, as part of his life has drastically changed. Santiago asks Migeul to help find his body so that he can be properly buried and therefore his soul can be released, which forces Miguel to come face to face with his true self, regardless of how the rest of the village feels.
Undertow is a small movie that has a lot of heart, and does a great job of covering issues that are present in Peru as well as the U.S. The struggle for acceptance and self identity is presented in a caring, realistic way in this movie. The acting by the three main characters is very well done, and while the pace of the movie can drag at times, the overall feel of the movie was well done. the use of Santiago’s ghost could have really been overdone to the point where the movie got cheesy, but writer/director Javier Fuentes-Leon does a nice job osf using the ghost to enhance the story and move forward the ultimate ending.
Undertow is not a great movie, but it is a great movie for what it is. The low budget, endearing tale is a good watch, even with the presentation issues here on this Blu-ray release. This is a non-Hollywood release, and instead of glitz and glamour, it has a lot of heart.
- Undertow A Look Inside – This 18 minute feature is a behind the scenes interview with the writer/director Javier Fuentes-Leon. He goes into detail about the story and how it eveolved from a project that he started in film school, and goes through the process of casting all the way up to the finish of the movie.
- Interviews – There are a few interviews thron in with stars Tatiana Astengo and Cristian Mercado that run about 5 minutes each, and are a bit on the dry side.
- Behind The Scenes – Thsi 11 minute long behind the scenes extra is pretty average, and covers a lot of the same information that the interviews include. It is not bad, but not great either.
- Deleted Scenes – There are quite a few deleted scenes here that run almost 25 minutes in length.
Cover Art and Menus: 6/10
The cover is a shot of the love triangle on a sofa on the beach. It pretty much sets up the movie, and it is not a bad artistic cover. the menu is a static shot of Manolo Cardona and Cristian Mercado in an embrace, with a moving underwater background. It is a it sparse considering this is a Blu-ray release.
Audio & Video: 4/10
Undertow was filmed using 16mm stock, and the result is a grainy, washed out appearance to the movie that on Blu-ray is very distracting. Their are some great shots of the peruvian ocean, that just seem to be rough and less than amazing. The grain is noticeable, as is the variance of blacks here. It is just not what one would expect, even though this is obviously a low budget movie.
The audio was also unerwhelming, with it being center channel driven, with dialogue at times annoyingly low. The audio is very flat, and there is no real use of Surround Sound here.
Ths movie Undertow is a sweet, slow moving look at prejudice and life in a culture that still holds homosexuality in extremely low regards. The acting is decent and the story, while slow, is solid. While the presentation is lacking and some elements have obviously been seen before in other movies, the result is a low budget gem that despite its numerous faults, shows real promise. It is worth a look for those who would find this type of movie enjoyable, but I am not sure of any real replay value.
Overall Score 6/10